In an unexpected and significant reversal of fortune for an incumbent candidate for the Bunnell City Commission election set for March 4, Jenny Crain-Brady has not qualified for the seat she had gathered petitions to run for. Brady failed to pay the $96 state assessment fee required of all candidates, whether they have the necessary number of petitions or not.
An earlier version of this story had reported that, based on information provided by Bunnell Clerk Sandi Bolser, Crain-Brady had qualified. But Bolser at the time was waiting on a legal opinion from City Attorney Wade Vose regarding the fact that Crain-Brady had failed to pay the assessment fee.
Vose informed Bolser late this afternoon that Crain-Brady had not qualified. “He’s litigated this before and said she did not qualify,” Vose said, according to Bolser.
“What happened was it was just an absolute oversight,” Crain-Brady said in an interview late Friday afternoon. “I tried to pay it twice before and it wasn’t due yet, it’s been an extraordinarily busy week.”
When Crain-Brady turned in her qualifying paperwork, with the petitions, “we didn’t talk about it, she came in and did her stuff,” Bolser said, though the clerk had pointed out what was due to Crain-Brady, Bolser said. Crain-Brady forgot to turn it in. The clerk added that she is not supposed to help candidates should they fail to turn in the proper documents, as that may look like favoritism–and that Crain-Brady had gone through the process before, and was aware of the requirements.
Crain-Brady’s qualification for the seat had come under question when a former city commissioner, mayor and police chief, Flynn Edmunson, publicly asked the commission to disqualify her from the panel when she sold her house in Bunnell and temporarily moved to a friend’s house in Palm Coast, pending the construction of a new house in the Bunnell City limits. In an impassioned speech to the commission, Crain-Brady defended her actions and asserted that she had done nothing illegal. Vose was at that meeting, and he backed her up.
Friday’s reversal, however, appeared set in stone, and Bolser told Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks that Crain-Brady had not qualified.
Crain-Brady was upbeat and in a bright mood when she spoke to a reporter this afternoon. “God’s will is done no matter what, and I was doing something against my will,” she said, describing how she’d been reluctant to run again but did not want the “dirty politics” to have the upper hand. “I did not subconsciously do this, it was a straight-up oversight in a very busy week. I would have appreciated a reminder rather than an after the fact.”
She added, ““So I guess my enemies will celebrate today.”
So just one incumbent and three additional candidates have qualified to run for the two seats currently held by Jenny Crain-Brady and John Rogers.
Rogers was the last candidate to qualify today before the qualifying window closed at noon. He was also the only candidate to opt to pay the qualifying fee of $288 rather than gather the minimum of 16 petitions necessary to qualify without paying the fee. All candidates pay a $96 state fee whether they turn in petitions or not.
Aside from Rogers, the three other candidates are Daisy Henry, Randall Morris and Bonita Robinson. There’d been speculation that Lt. Randy Burke, the acting police chief, and Charles Gardner, the appraiser, may run. Both eventually opted against it.
Henry was a city commissioner until she was defeated last year when Bill Baxley was elected. Henry had been part of a block that gave a controlling majority to Mayor Catherine Robinson and Crain-Brady. With Baxley’s election, that majority shifted to the one controlled by Elbert Tucker and Rogers, though Tucker, Rogers and Baxley have not been as cohesive a bloc as the trio of women had been under Robinson.
Should the controlling majority shift again, the fate of City Manager Lawrence Williams, whom Robinson does not like, may be in the air again. A persistent rumor in Bunnell has Armando Martinez, the former city manager, returning should the controlling majority shift in his favor. Asked about the possibility before he left last year, Martinez was non-committal.
But the shift back to Robinson would have assumed that Crain-Brady would have held her seat and Henry would have been elected. With Crain-Brady gone, Rogers’ s likelihood of holding his seat rises, and with that the likelihood that the Tucker-Rogers-Baxley majority will remain intact, especially with Henry and Bonita Robinson, who are both black, possibly splitting the black vote.
Morris recently served on the city’s Charter Review Committee. Bonita Robinson is an ex-city employee who worked in the public works department.
The Bunnell City Commission is ostensibly non-partisan. The two top vote-getters on March 4 will be elected, regardless of their residency in the city, as there is no district representation on the commission.
The salary for city commissioners is $9,600. They serve for three years. There are just 1,600 registered voters in Bunnell. Elections usually draw fewer than 300 voters, and are frequently decided by less than five votes.